The largest spectator crowds so far at the World Series of Poker crowded into the Rio last weekend for the Ladies No Limit Hold’em event.
A field of more than 1,128 women — by far the largest in poker history — entered the event, each hoping to unseat reigning champion Jennifer Tilly and outlast a host of other Hollywood celebrities who entered the event.
Last year’s victory by the Oscar-nominated actress Tilly generated widespread publicity and sparked a near doubling in the number of entrants from the previous record field of 600 in 2005.
"Jennifer Tilly has helped fuel the explosive growth in the popularity of women’s poker," said Jeffrey Pollack, commissioner of the World Series of Poker. "She was a gracious winner of last year’s event and has been a terrific ambassador for the game."
This year, Tilly joined forces with ELLE magazine and PartyPoker.net to form a team including actress Shannon Elizabeth and some of the country’s top female players to raise funds for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.
The ELLE-PartyPoker team includes actresses Tilly, Elizabeth, Alison Worth and Katie Porrello; Lisa Tenner, president of Tenner and Associates; producer and director Susan Genard; ICM executive Lori Sale; Card Player Media executive Allyn Jeffrey Shulman; ELLE executive Hillary Kerr, poker pros Karina Jett, Maureen Feduniak, Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, Jennifer Leigh, Wendeen Eolis and Irina Cornides, and real estate developer Leslie Eichner.
The ELLE team members will donate a percentage of any winnings to the American Heart Association, and team sponsors will match those donations. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
The ELLE team wasn’t the only one featuring actresses. Hollywood Poker sent a team that included Anne Heche, Ricki Lake, Victoria Pratt, Jean Smart, Mimi Rogers, Mena Suvari and Kelly Hu.
The final round of the two-day Ladies tournament was to be played Monday night. At press time, the chip leaders were Laurie Scott, Sue Luckenbaugh, Shawnee Barton, Devi Ortega, La Sengphet, Julie Allen, Becky James, Patti Abram, Lisa Spain and Debbie Pechac.
Last year’s champ Jennifer Tilly was busted on Sunday when her pocket 3s fell to Heather Embry’s A-Q, which caught an ace on the board.
Those pesky 3’s also played a part in Mimi Rogers’ run. The accomplished celebrity/player pushed all-in with A-8 off-suit against her opponent’s A-3. Although a big favorite, Rogers was eliminated when a 3 flopped and she couldn’t improve.